Charlie Walker-Wise, Business Development Manager, RADA Business

I have a theory. It goes something like this: first we celebrate play in children, then we indulge it, then we tolerate it, and then we squash it.

When a baby becomes a toddler and begins to interact with their environment we are thrilled and encourage its experimentation through play. As toddlers become children we accept the games they play, the make-believe worlds they create, understanding that these are important for them to make sense of the world around them.

But at about the age of 7 or 8 we change the language we use with children. We start to say things like 'grow up' and 'stop behaving like a child' and 'act your age'. The absurdity of making these statements to a child looks stark out of context, doesn’t it? But when flung out in frustration, how much thought is given to the damaging language and its effect? Suddenly investigation through experience becomes a bad thing. We risk shaming children for their curiosity and experimentation.

This phenomenon is coupled with how we educate children. At around the same age (7 or 8) lessons at school focus much more heavily on literacy and numeracy. Again, another key part of life moves from the celebration of experience to the celebration of cerebral learning. This attitude to learning increasingly dominates primary and secondary education, is also the approach in most higher education and continues on into professional work-based learning as well.

Recent research by Cambridge University has highlighted the long term educational benefits of extending the time children are encouraged to learn through play. RADA’s approach goes further; we encourage learning through play in adults.

Learning through play is hugely important. It allows you to process experiences in context as if they were real and understand the outcomes of your behaviour or actions. At RADA Business, play is at the heart of all our work. We allow you to learn by doing and give you permission to make mistakes. We create a space where you can be brave, take real risks, and unpack some of the baggage we all carry from being told to ‘stop behaving like a child’.

The professional world is waking up to the power of play. It’s time to mess around.